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Weapons: The BAR Reborn
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November 22, 2010: The U.S. Marine Corps has bought 4,200 new light machine-guns. The new weapon, the M27, will replace the current M249s in marine infantry battalions. However, each of these battalions will retain six M249s, to give the battalion some options. The marines will withdraw from service 20 percent of their 10,000 M249s by the time all 4,200 M27s have been delivered.

The M27 is a 3.6 kg (7.9 pound, empty) automatic weapon based on the HK416. It has a forward grip and heavier barrel and can use a 30 or 100 round magazine. Unlike the M249, it does not have an easily replaceable barrel, but it is more accurate and has a slower rate of fire (560-640 rounds per minute). The M27 uses a mechanical system that is less likely to jam, as well as a floating barrel (for better accuracy.) Marines are expected to use fewer rounds of more accurate fire with the M27 than they did with the M249.

The M27 came after five years of research and development to create a weapon that would replace the M249, which the army and marines began using in the early 1980s. The marines have had a lot of complaints about the M249 in Iraq (jams from all the dust and sand), and many of the marine M249s are simply wearing out.

The marines were originally looking for an IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle) that weighed between 4.8 kg (10.5 pounds) and 5.7 kg (12.5 pounds) empty, used a large magazine (100 rounds or more) as well as the standard M-16 30 round magazine. The heavy barrel on the IAR had to be able to handle sustained fire of 36-75 rounds a minute. The higher number was the ideal. It had to have the standard rail on top for mounting accessories, be resistant to jamming from dust and sand and, in general, be a lot better than the M249. The marines always planned to buy 4,000 weapons initially, and wanted to do so as soon as possible.

The M249 weighs 6.8 kg (15 pounds) empty, and has been popular with the troops. But in over two decades, despite several tweaks to the basic design, many complaints have piled up. The marines were not the first ones to take action on a replacement. Six years ago SOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) began using the Mk 46 LMG (Light Machine Guns). This weapon is a modified version of the American M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW), which is in turn a modified version of a European design from the Belgian firm FN. The Mk 46 is lighter, at 5.9 kg (13 pounds) empty, 8.2 kg (18 pounds) loaded, with 200 rounds, compared to 10 kg (22 pounds) for the M249. The Mk 46 also has the rail on top for the quick attachment of sights and such. The lighter weight was accomplished with a newly designed barrel, and removing various bits of hardware SOCOM didn't want. Added is a forward pistol grip and a detachable bipod. SOCOM likes to use the Mk 46 more like a "heavy assault rifle" than a "light machine-gun."

U.S. Army Special Forces pioneered the development of the 5.56mm light machine-gun four decades ago, when they obtained the first experimental models for use in Vietnam. The Special Forces and SEALs were very impressed with the light weight, and heavy firepower, from these weapons. But it took over a decade for the regular army to adopt such a weapon, mainly in response to the success the Russians were having with their own version of the lightweight squad machine-gun.

The army is also making noise about an M249 replacement, and have followed the marine search with great interest. The marines finally selected the lighter HK entry after three months of field testing. The M27 is quite similar to the first American "light machine gun", the M1918 BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). This was a 7.62mm, 7.25 kg (16 pound) automatic rifle, similar in appearance to the later (1950s), and lighter  M-14. The BAR was revolutionary in World War I, and was used by the United States until the 1960s, when it was replaced with 6.6 kg M-14A1s equipped with a heavier barrel. This was not a satisfactory solution, and led to the development of the M249.

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WarNerd       11/22/2010 9:39:43 AM
At 16.5" the barrel length is almost halfway between the M-4's 14.5" and the M-16's 20".
 
Anyone know how much of a performance benefit this brings?
 
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doggtag    I don't think it's fair compairing the M27 to the BAR...   11/22/2010 11:06:13 AM
On one of those WW2 Cards of Knowledge (got the complete set way back in the day, early 1980s),
the Weapon card for the BAR mentioned that one of the pluses of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge was its ability to penetrate a 3" oak plank at 1000yards (or maybe it was the M1 Garand Weapon card, but they both fired the same cartridge back then).
 
Granted, I don't know how many insurgents today "armor" themselves and their vehicles and hide-outs with 3 inches of oak planking,
but take into account that no amount of barrel length is ever going to give you a 5.56mm round that offers similar performance (range, penetration) to what the BAR could do with its 30-06.
Also take into account that you probably didn't need a 5+ round burst into a target (human) with a BAR to guarantee it would stay down.
 
 
 
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JFKY    You're right...   11/22/2010 11:27:20 AM
it's an insult to the M-27.  The BAR was a barely acceptable squad weapon...as heavy as a machine gun, but incapable of sustained fire, due to the 20 round magazine and a non-changeable barrel. 
 
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davidhughes       11/22/2010 12:12:06 PM
I agree with JFKY; the greatest (probably the only) weakness in US Army infantry weaponry in WW2 was the BAR. For some bizarre reason the Army considered it to be an adequate substitute for a squad LMG. Strange because it was designed as a "trench clearer" and probably performed well in that specific role, for which it was revolutionary. Note that the US Marines had serious reservations about the weapon, preferring genuine LMG's, and when forced to adopt took the sensible approach of using two to three BAR's in a squad. Together they were able to approach the sustained fire capability of a genuine LMG.
 
My only concern with the HK is the assumption that a non-interchangeable heav(ier) barrel is adequate for an effective rate of fire of about 100 rpm (being a soldier have no belief that a gunner will be content with an 'official' sustained 50-75 rpm, especially when using 100 round loads!!!).
 
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JFKY    Oh No...   11/22/2010 12:47:53 PM
The BAR wasn't the only C*ck-up in US weaponry...the Browning "LMG" was another...the Browning .30 Caliber HMG, water-cooled was an EXCELLENT weapon, but the air-cooled version was heavy and came only in a tripod version, and the later bipod version was also way too heavy.  At the section/platoon/company level the US army was out-gunned, at least theoretically, by its German counter-parts.  Were it not for superior US artillery, radio, and air-power plus a healthy number of M-4's and tank destroyers, the US Infantry would have been in very deep trouble in Northwest Europe 1944-on.
 
The non-changeable barrel, is a acknowledgment that the M-27 is NOT a sustained fire weapon.  You want to fire hundreds of rounds at something or someone you'll need a real machine gun.  This is a section/fire team weapon, it's not there to "shoot your way into a target" like a GPMG or HMG on a mount is designed to do.  It's designed to engage in a discrete firefight with an opponent.  It's a step up from a Designated Marksman's Rifle or Assault Rifle, but it's not a "machine gun"...it's an automatic fire weapon with a substantial magazine capacity, that one person may operate, for a limited time and target selection.  It's not a crew-served, tripod mounted, sustained fire weapon designed to engage point or area targets for a substantial period of time.
 
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YelliChink       11/22/2010 3:04:31 PM

it's an insult to the M-27.  The BAR was a barely acceptable squad weapon...as heavy as a machine gun, but incapable of sustained fire, due to the 20 round magazine and a non-changeable barrel. 


I don't agree with you on this one. Bonnie & Clyde used the BAR very well. Of course, they did some mod to theirs, such as cutting down barrel and stock. BAR was born out of experience and requirement for WW1. It is lighter than the Lewis Guns and more reliable than that French-made piece of crap called Chauchat. It is, believe it or not, intended to be a crew-served weapons with shooter and loader. Pretty much like ZB26 and Bren gun concept, which proved to be very effective even to this day. Japanese had some interested idea which resulted in Type 92 LMG which is the real disaster in WW2. They eventually looked at what CNA was using and copied ZB26 as Type 96/99 LMG. Changeable barrels only came later after WW1.
 
As an individual weapon, you are right, BAR is indeed too heavy, and unfit to be a one-man weapon in WW2. However they are already in stock, so why not use them to the fullest?
 
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YelliChink       11/22/2010 3:14:52 PM

The BAR wasn't the only C*ck-up in US weaponry...the Browning "LMG" was another...the Browning .30 Caliber HMG, water-cooled was an EXCELLENT weapon, but the air-cooled version was heavy and came only in a tripod version, and the later bipod version was also way too heavy.  At the section/platoon/company level the US army was out-gunned, at least theoretically, by its German counter-parts.  Were it not for superior US artillery, radio, and air-power plus a healthy number of M-4's and tank destroyers, the US Infantry would have been in very deep trouble in Northwest Europe 1944-on.

 

The non-changeable barrel, is a acknowledgment that the M-27 is NOT a sustained fire weapon.  You want to fire hundreds of rounds at something or someone you'll need a real machine gun.  This is a section/fire team weapon, it's not there to "shoot your way into a target" like a GPMG or HMG on a mount is designed to do.  It's designed to engage in a discrete firefight with an opponent.  It's a step up from a Designated Marksman's Rifle or Assault Rifle, but it's not a "machine gun"...it's an automatic fire weapon with a substantial magazine capacity, that one person may operate, for a limited time and target selection.  It's not a crew-served, tripod mounted, sustained fire weapon designed to engage point or area targets for a substantial period of time.



MG42 is only good when it is put on tri-pod as well. Theoretically, it can be shot with bi-pod. In reality, shooting MG42 with bi-pod isn't very effective due to very high ROF, recoil and vibration. Barrel Change in MG42 also isn't as quick as one may think. The barrel heats more rapidly than M1919A4, and one needs to wear some glove to extract that barrel. Of course both were inferior to FN MAG, but that didn't happen before 1950s.
 
Depending on which law or definition you are using. By ATF standard, M27 is a "machine gun." For military, it is an automatic rifle designed for the purpose you describe. However, I would not say it is "a step up" from DMR or assault rifle. M27 is an assault rifle for all intend and purposes. DMR is, well, different animal. It's not even a new idea. Any one with automatic AK-47 and Chinese 75rd drum knows what it can do.
 
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JFKY    Well yellichink   11/22/2010 3:22:24 PM
I'd argue step up, because the DMR or the M-4 are basically for single shot fire, with burst or automatic fire as an OPTION, but the firer is, generally, expected to be firing a round every 4 seconds or so.  Whereas the M-27 is designed to be an automatic weapon...
 
I guess the best way I'd put it is the default position...In the M-4/DMR the default is Single-shots whereas in the M-27 the default selection is Automatic.
 
I understand that for the purposes of US Federal Law, the M-27 may be a "machine gun" just like the use of a "pipe bomb" is the "Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction", but the legal definition and the military definition are different, as you know.
 
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ambush       11/22/2010 5:49:31 PM
There are several reasons for this. One of whic is accuracy.  The M-249 is a Light Machne gun not a Squad Automatic Weapon. the Mriane Corps conducted some tests  on thsi.  Some had to to with Weapons adn others with squad configuration with these weapons.
 

Automatic Rifle Concept: Part I—History and Empirical Testing

by CWO3 Jeffrey L. Eby

?Those German units fortunate enough to have officers who understood the effect of modern firepower went into battle in dispersed skirmish lines, with as many as six meters between each man and with each man granted the freedom to make use of whatever cover was available during his forward movement.?1—Bruce Gudmundsson
Stormtroop Tactics

 

The relationship between the lethality of weapons and the dispersion of the troops found on the same battlefield has been a consideration for commanders since man first engaged in combat. From the Spartan phalanx to German stormtroop operations, combat leaders have been forced to adjust their tactics to the technology of the day. The dispersion of the troops has always been a critical aspect of the tactics employed. As the lethality of weapons has increased so has the dispersion necessary to preserve combat power.

History
Throughout history, advances in technology have driven tactical changes. As smaller units of combatants have gained greater firepower, dispersion has become a critical function of survivability on the battlefield. Dispersion is not merely a function of physical distance between elements but also incorporates the elements of mobility, command, and control. One end of the spectrum of dispersion is a massed armed force in physical contact, slow to move, and under the direct observation and control of its senior leader. The opposite end of the spectrum is a force of individual skirmishers moving quickly and guided only by a general intent. Commanders have continually adjusted the deployment of their forces in order to most effectively bring fire to bear on the enemy while simultaneously attempting to minimize the effects of enemy fire on their own forces.

The combatants of World War I learned a number of lessons as they attempted to resolve how to increase dispersion in the face of increased firepower, while still maintaining some type of control over their squads and platoons. By increasing the training standards of the individual soldier they hoped to enable themselves to decentralize command and increase dispersion.2 Better trained soldiers could operate more effectively without direct supervision.

Realizing that coordinated rushes drew fire, soldiers began advancing using stealth, microterrain, and individual rushes.3 The development of a light machinegun and trench mortar—fielded at the squad level—increased the unit?s firepower without having to resort to linear formations of riflemen.4 Without the need to ?build up the skirmish line,? squads could maneuver freely, furthering dispersion while maintaining offensive momentum.5

By the beginning of World War II almost all combatants possessed squad organizations built around light machineguns and automatic rifles (ARs). Armies fielded units capable of the dispersion necessary to survive and operate on this new, more expansive battlefield in both offensive and defensive operations.

As World War II progressed, American Army and Marine Corps squads focused on gaining further firepower that improved their survivability and allowed for further dispersion and movement. Army experiences in the bocage country of Normandy and the woods of the Huertgen forest led to two and even three Browning ARs (BARs) at the squad level. The American ?light? machinegun—

 
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ambush       11/22/2010 5:51:58 PM

Automatic Rifle Concept: Part II—Reorganizing the Infantry Squad

by CWO3 Jeffrey L. Eby

This is the second article outlining the automatic rifle
assessment conducted by 2d Battalion, 7th Marines (2/7).

 

The previous article summarized the relationship between weapons lethality and dispersion on the battlefield and the need for a highly mobile automatic rifle (AR)—reliable and capable of semiautomatic fire—at the fire team (FT) level. The first article also indicated that, rather than eliminate the M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW) from the Marine Corps inventory, the weapon should be employed in its designed role as a light machinegun (LMG). The M249 as an LMG, coupled with a true AR at the FT level, would markedly increase the lethality of the infantry squad. It would further the historical paradigm, already outlined in the first article, of increased lethality resulting in the need for increased dispersion.

Because of the results achieved in Phase I, experimental squad and platoon organizations were constructed in order to examine how the inclusion of a true AR and the consolidation of the SAWs at various levels of command would affect tactics, techniques, and procedures at the platoon, squad, and FT level. This article will summarize the results of the constrained squad reorganization.

2/7 reorganized its rifle companies in order to better utilize the SAW and to integrate the AR into the squads. The battalion hoped that different configurations in squad and platoon organization might prove better at taking advantage of the mass, flexibility, and command and control available when removing LMGs from the assault role. Each rifle company maintained one platoon, using the current table of organization (T/O) and with current tables of equipment, to act as the evaluation?s control group. The companies then reorganized one of their platoons, integrating the ARs and consolidating the SAWs at different levels of command. The first platoon in each company reorganized a squad by replacing the SAWs in the first and second FTs with one of the AR test variants and consolidating the SAWs in the third FT. (See Table 1.)

Billet

Weapon

Billet

Weapon

Billet

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